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Sangiin Dalai Monastery: Reviving Myths through Masterpieces

South Gobi Aimaq, Republic of Mongolia

The heroic restoration of the eighteenth-century Buddhist monastery has revived an important Mongolian cultural centre in the south Gobi Desert and rekindled a tradition of vernacular craftsmanship.

Converted in the 1930s into an army camp and later abandoned, the monastery complex has been brought back to life by local people who, through this project, have re-acquired long lost skills in architecture and the manufacture of traditional construction materials. A small factory to produce bricks and tiles has been established on site, providing jobs as well as materials needed for future restoration work here and at other derelict monasteries in the vicinity.

Mentoring by Chinese master builders employed on the project has renewed historic cultural linkages, while the guidance of international experts has helped ensure that a rigorous methodology for documentation and conservation was followed. With the supervision of Buddhist monastic leaders, the project was undertaken with the support of the Mongolian authorities along with local and international charitable organizations.

The newly-consecrated monastery stands as a compelling testament to the dedication and determination of the residents of Nomgon Soum in revitalizing their traditional cultural heritage.

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